The main lesson the world learned from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident was that even a relatively small radioactive discharge can cause a disaster over a wide area. And this lesson has been taken in by the Arab world, which fears Iran’s atomic ambition. Yet, Iran hopes to use this fear in its move to become the regional superpower.
Arab leaders knows if Iran, or anyone else for that matter, attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, bordering states such as Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and especially the Palestinians could be destroyed as well. Shock waves and atomic radiation know no borders.
You might say, the Arab-Israeli conflict would be settled in one blow, with the suffering survivors envying the dead.
We can only hope Iran realizes this, too. And we can also hope if and when they get the bomb their maniacal leadership doesn’t adopt the standard terrorist logic of accepting collateral damage for their idea of the greater good.
In the realpolitik of the Middle East most Arab countries now tacitly accept Israel as a present day reality, one they can use as a bulwark against what they see as Iran’s imperial ambition of becoming a new version of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
When the Ottoman Empire dissolved after WW1, it left a power vacuum in the Middle East. With the discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf region, Britain officially, under its mandate from the League of Nations anointed the Al Saud Family the guardians of Islam. It would later become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Yet, other tribes in the region feel they are the rightful heirs to this title. But they have been too busy being held at bay by Israel to pursue their own ambitions. For example, Egypt's long-gone leader Gamel Nasser had delusions of grandeur, creating a very short-lived alliance with Syria called the United Arab Republic.
America’s biggest problem in regions such as Asia and the Arab world has been having little understanding of the people and their mindsets. We live in a here and now world. In this way, our visionless politicians are a good fit for us.
But the Arabs have a future vision that approaches sci-fi writing, “Sure,” one dictator may say, “we’ll cool it with the Israelis while they are useful to us and besides we have our brother Palestinians locked up in camps doing our bidding. So, we can wait, if not in this lifetime or century in the next one.”
An Egyptian academic teaching in London once told me, the belief by the Arabs that Israel has atomic weapons has had a positive effect in preventing another major regional conflict since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Now, however, Iran looms as a greater threat to sovereign Arab nations than Israel ever did. Like the Turks, the Iranians, although Muslim, are not a Semitic people, whereas the Israelis are. Oh yes, since most Arabs are Sunni Muslims they dislike the Iranian Shiites. If this sounds like a soap opera, you’re right and it never ends.